Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day One
(1 episode, s03e01, 2009)
The Home Office gets explosive results.
Scotland, 1965: A bus full of children stops at an undisclosed location. When they stop, the children disembark and are walked toward a bright light. All of them but one walk into the light. The lone child flees as the light flares.
Cardiff, 2009: Gwen is withdrawing money from an ATM when she notices that the children around her have frozen in place, totally catatonic. The same is happening all around the area. As suddenly as it began, the phenomenon ends and the children start moving again as if nothing happened.
Gwen heads to Torchwood and begins to investigate the oddity. We’re reminded that Jack, Ianto, and Gwen are all that remains of Torchwood Three.
In a nearby hospital, a patient dies on the table. The doctor, Rupesh Patanjali, informs Ianto and Jack, believing that they are the patient’s neighbors. Jack and Ianto ask for a moment with the body, which they then open with a laser saw and withdraw an alien organ. They’re discovered by the doctor and leave with the organ, but before they leave Patanjali informs them of several more missing bodies. Jack and Ianto refuse to help due to all of the red tape involved in the investigation.
We are next introduced to a new set of players. Lois Habiba is starting a job working for Bridget Spears, who is the assistant to the Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, John Frobisher. Secretary Frobisher (who looks very familiar) is visited by UNIT Colonel Oduya who informs him that the phenomenon with the children happened all around the world.
Torchwood discovers this at the same time. They’re naturally concerned, and so is UNIT, the latter going to yellow alert while they investigate if the incident was extraterrestrial or not. Obviously, everyone wants to keep it quiet.
Jack is perturbed that Martha Jones chose now to go on her honeymoon – to whom, we do not yet know – but luckily Dr. Patanjali arrives at Roald Dahl Plass just as Torchwood needs a doctor. Jack and Ianto lured him in just like they did with Gwen. Naturally, Gwen goes above to serve as a recruitment officer and review the files that Patanjali brought. While they talk, the children all stop again.
But this time, they scream. Then they chant, in unison, “We are coming.”
It happened worldwide. It also happened with one adult, Timothy White, a patient in a mental institution in East Grinstead.
Patanjali is paged back to the hospital as the Home Office is flooded with calls. Frobisher gets a visit from Mr. Dekker, the head of MI5’s technology division and alien monitoring, who tells him that “the 456” have re-established contact for the first time since 1965. At the same time, Lois takes a call from Torchwood, which the system flags as classified. Using her supervisor’s credentials, she learns more than she bargained for.
Frobisher meets with Prime Minister Brian Green, a man who is a bit overwhelmed with the various alien threats looming over them. Frobisher suggests keeping certain historical events off the record, and Green wants to keep his name out of it. Frobisher gets the privilege of a “blank page”.
Gwen discovers that every child worldwide was speaking English, and Jack and Ianto agree that they need to interview one of them. Gwen drives to meet Timothy while Jack visits his daughter, Alice Carter, and her son Steven, his grandson.
They catch up for a few minutes and muse about Jack’s immortality, but in the end, Alice refuses to let Jack use Steven for Torchwood experimentation. So, Jack turns to Patanjali instead.
Ianto visits his sister, Rhiannon Davies, but she also refuses to let him take one of the kids out. She’s also nervous about Ianto’s relationship with Jack. Her husband Johnny is quite a bit more homophobic about it. Ianto is humiliated but tries to save face. The moment is interrupted by someone stealing the Torchwood SUV. Ianto is exasperated.
Gwen’s interview with Timothy reveals that he was the child who ran away in 1965. His real name is Clement McDonald, and he’s developed an unusually heightened sense of smell. He’s been smelling the aliens coming back for months, and he also can tell that Gwen is three weeks pregnant.
Surprise! Although, it works out well with Rhys shopping for a house.
Gwen calls Ianto, who has made it back to the Hub, and asks him to search for information about MacDonald, missing children, and Scotland. Unbeknownst to him, Ianto triggers an alarm at an unidentified military monitoring station.
At Home Office, Frobisher orders the blank page, which is code for a kill order. There are four targets on the list: Captain Jack Harkness, retired Colonel Michael Sanders, Ellen Hunt, and Captain Andrew Staines. Lois sees Bridget is distressed, and when she looks at Bridget’s e-mail, she recognizes Jack’s name from the earlier call.
Jack arrives at the hospital and receives word that another man has died. When Jack examines the body, Patanjali shoots him. As Jack dies, a military force arrives as a woman named Johnson waits until Jack revives. Johnson also discovers the link between Clement and Timothy. She sends officers to retrieve him, so he runs.
Patanjali reveals that he was a spy for this group, attempting to infiltrate Torchwood. Jack revives and Johnson kills him again, issuing orders for her men to implant a bomb in his body. Johnson covers her operation by killing Patanjali, stopping him from revealing the truth to Jack.
Jack, meanwhile, revives after the soldiers depart. He returns to the Hub.
At the Hub, Gwen verifies Clement’s claim with a scanner. Jack congratulates her and inadvertently uses the scanner, thus discovering the bomb. He orders Gwen and Ianto to evacuate. He kisses Ianto, watches him rise on the elevator, and promises that he’ll come back. He always does.
The bomb has a blast radius of one mile. The Hub is completely destroyed in a massive explosion that knocks Gwen to the ground.
Meanwhile, the children chant: “We are coming, we are coming, we are coming… back.”
Day One is tense and engaging, leading us into the first season-long arc in the Doctor Who universe since The Trial of a Time Lord. The show picks up the pieces left behind from the previous season and lays down several threads to pursue in the process. We meet Jack’s family and Ianto’s family – two families that we had not previously met – and learn that Gwen and Rhys are expecting a baby.
Torchwood has apparently lost its secrecy, including the general location of Torchwood Three’s headquarters. It’s no wonder since the world has been time and again been exposed to aliens, but perhaps the destruction of the Hub will reset that norm. At this point, half the world knows of or believes in alien life, and the other half is in denial.
Unfortunately, this brings into question the fate of the various beings and relics housed in the Hub, including the Weevils, Gray, and Myfanwy.
We get a nod to Martha Jones, which is a bit meta since she was expected to appear in this set of stories until Law & Order: UK picked up Freema Agyeman. We also meet the fourth Prime Minister in the revival era – Brian Green picks up where Harold Saxon, Harriet Jones, and the unknown politician in Aliens of London left off – which is something that the classic era didn’t play with much.
Finally, after reading Children of Time from kOZMIC Press, I can’t help but think of a penguin when I hear the name Frobisher.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Torchwood: Children of Earth – Day Two
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.